Ginger and Tomato Indian Lentil Soup (Dahl)

Flash Steam OnionsThere are few things as comforting as a starchy spicy soup during the cold winter months.  This is a very simple soup, inspired by the cuisines of India, with minor twists for a healthier, souped-up version if you will chock full of nutrients. On the one hand, I add a few ribs of celery to the mix –an item I love to include on my receipe repertoire in the winter-.  On the other hand, I also eliminate the use of oil for the initial sautee to cut back on fat calories and use a handful of spinach for an extra nutrient boost.  Finally I serve this dish over some steamed baby potatoes.  Often times, people ask me about their concern that dish may be too heavy on the carbs.  My simple answer is that these are the good carbs our body needs, our preferred source of fuel, coming from whole, unprocessed foods. So go ahead, and try this wonderful, fragrant dish that will warm you up and stick to your ribs in the middle of winter.

Makes about 6 servings

2 cups of red lentil (dahl), rinsed (yellow or green split peas are also an option)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh lemongrass (if available, optional)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
5 cups vegetable stock, no sodium added, or water
1 onion, diced
4 celery ribs, diced
2 cups crushed canned tomatoes, preferably no salt added
2 kaffir lime leaves (optional, if available or use dried bay leaves instead)
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and lightly chopped
Pinch of red crushed chilies, optional

2 lbs steamed baby potatoes, for serving
Lemon Juice, for serving

Steam sautee diced onion and celery on a medium high heat soup with a few tbsp of stock or water on a pot for a few minutes until lightly brown, stirring from time to time, about 5 minutes.  Add ginger and lemongrass and continue sautéing for a few more minutes.  Add garlic, cumin turmeric and continue cooking for another 3 more minutes until spices are fragrant.  Add crushed tomatoes, stock, red lentils and kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a light simmer and cook uncovered mixing from time to time (the lentils may stick to the bottom of the pan if not stirred).  Continue cooking just until lentils are soft and fully cooked, about 20 minutes. Just before serving, add the spinach leaves, stir well and allow to wilt down for about another minute off the heat.

Serve on bowls over the steamed baby potatoes and garnish with a little bit of lemon juice and some freshly ground pepper or crushed red chilies if desired.

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